• Jodi Tan

Takeaways from The Start In Start-Up S2E2: Finding opportunities to kickstart your startup

Want to start a business? Perhaps now is the best time. The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has undeniably disrupted the status quo, creating a long list of problems and inconveniences to our day-to-day lives. But from another perspective, this has also led to more opportunities for aspiring young entrepreneurs, like yourselves, to put on our thinking caps and come up with groundbreaking solutions.

In our second episode of the “Start in Start-up series'', we will be taking a closer look into ways to find opportunities to kickstart our entrepreneurship journey. We are delighted to have Mr. Shubham Goyal, the co-founder, and CEO of Cerebry, a personalised tutoring platform powered by Artificial intelligence, Mr Jae Lee, a serial technology entrepreneur and the current Vice President of engineering at Quincus, and last but not least, Mr Jeffrey Nah who is concurrently CEO of JN Capital and Growth Advisory, and an adjunct lecturer at NTU, to enlighten us on this topic. Each panelist took turns to share their valuable insights through their work and mentoring experience that is summed up in this article, and we hope that it will benefit you as much as it has benefitted us.

Question 1: How does one decide on what problem to tackle with their startup?

To start the ball rolling, each panelist shared their take on addressing key concerns about their startup. More often than not, motivated founders get dumbstruck by the first question before starting a company, and that is the problem that they’re seeking to solve. Surprisingly, many founders begin searching for a solution to a problem that nobody has, with no prior research nor knowledge about what the markets want. This is, as our panelists joked, equivalent to putting the cart before the horse.

Another issue lies with your tenacity throughout your entrepreneurial journey, which is a common issue amongst founders. The ugly truth is that most founders did not start a company due to their passion to resolve a pressing problem, but for the sake of telling others the beautiful title of being “self-employed”. Fame and fortune have since been the reason for the over-glorification of entrepreneurship in this day and age. As such, this has led to many founders bailing when the dark side of entrepreneurship rears its ugly head. As Jeffrey correctly puts it, a true founder is willing to endure through “fire and hell” when the odds are stacked against them.

Question 2: What are opportunities to grow a startup in the early stages?

One of the more painful stages would be the initial stages of the startups, where founders work day and night in attempts to recognise the problem, secure funding, and so on. Founders often make the mistake of failing to validate their idea, in which only they, rather than their target audience, believe that it's a problem. The panelists constantly stress the importance of knowing the profile of your target segment and hearing it directly from your customers. Afterall, to attract patrons, you have to fine-tune your product to their liking.

Next, the discussion shifted towards the importance of team members, who are instrumental in not just your start-ups growth, but the survival of it in the long run. Who are you going to choose as your co-founders? What will your working culture be like? Talent is at the top of the pile, and Shubham believes that team motivation is key when by drawing in his experience at talent acquisition for Celebry. Jeffrey offered an interesting acronym for ways to select your team members, namely the 3C (Complementary skills, chemistry, and competency) and the 3H (Hacker, your CTO, Hipster, your chief marketer and designer, and Hustler, your business and finance manager).

Question 3: What are the main challenges that you face when trying to kickstart your startup?

Most start-ups (sadly) don't encompass a good business model, nor a good understanding of the problem they’re solving, but instead, go around chasing funding. Founders must instead focus on what matters and establish good fundamentals before they’re ready to approach a venture capitalist to showcase their minimum viable product.

To add on, Jae believes in precision over accuracy when starting out. Without a clear idea of the problems that one faces, founders will make the same mistakes perpetually without knowing the underlying reason for his or her failure.

Question 4: What are some upcoming trends that aspiring startup founders can hop on to tackle?

“Sustainability”, “electric vehicles”, and “climate change” are ubiquitous buzzwords of this century, and these are contentious issues that will plague our generation. This is coupled with the rise of terms like AI, blockchain, and cloud computing, which provide a tremendous amount of opportunities and an arsenal of tools to resolve these problems.

Like many technologists, Jae proclaims data as the new oil, where big data and data-driven decisions are more important than ever in our generation. By leveraging on data, entrepreneurs have more than just a “gut feel” before making bold steps to create seismic changes within the industry.

Question 5: How has covid changed the startup scene?

Shubham is quick to point out the rather positive impact that covid had on his start-up. By going virtual, Shubham explained how start-ups, especially those in the tech arena, could come up with numerous novel ideas to help people transition to the new normal. Although there is a shortchange of personal touch of working face to face before the pandemic, remote working has its perks, such as increased productivity and the ease of hiring workers for Cerebry.

This has in turn also accelerated the trend towards massive digitalisation, where industries like telemedicine boomed as a result of covid. This falls in place very neatly to our hook at the beginning of this article, echoing my sentiments that it's perhaps never a better time to kickstart your entrepreneurship journey now.

Concluding thoughts:

Our panelists ended off with the emphasis on passion, the important driving force that keeps you in the game for the long haul. Entrepreneurship is a tiring and fulfilling journey, and you’ll never really know if it's for you unless you take your first leap of faith, as discussed back in episode one. Undoubtedly, joining a start-up will be one of the best ways for personal growth. Each panelist has tried and failed many times, but being out of their comfort zone allowed them to witness phenomenal self-growth in the process.

The late Steve Jobs once claimed focus and simplicity to be his mantra, which is ideally what all aspiring entrepreneurs should aim for in the early stage of their start-up. The opportunities and problems to resolve are endless, but what is important is that you keep your head in the game until the very end.

We hope that everyone who attended the session thoroughly enjoyed it! See you in the next episode of the Start In Startup-Up Series !

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